More lawyers are donating more time to representing the poor for free, a study by the American Bar Association has found. The study found that 73 percent of attorneys provided some pro bono representation to persons of limited means, or organizations that represent such people, during the prior year. That’s up from 66 percent in a 2005 study conducted by the group. Attorneys provided an average of 41 hours of pro bono work over the past year, up from 39 hours in 2005.
The study was based on interviews with a representative sample of 1,100 lawyers nationwide conducted in 2008. It has a statistical accuracy of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The study found that 81 percent of lawyers in private practice provide some pro bono services, compared to just 43 percent of corporate counsel and 30 percent of lawyers working for government.
Approximately 84 percent of solo practitioners and lawyers in firms of 2 to 10 attorneys reported doing pro bono, compared to 76 percent of lawyers in firms of 101 or more lawyers. More minority lawyers in private practice volunteered their time (90 percent) than did white lawyers in law firms (80 percent).
And the ABA is actively pushing for the creation of Legal Corps, which would direct more lawyers into efforts to represent a broad segment of working people in matters arising out of the economic crisis, such as foreclosures. Legal Corps lawyers would bolster services already being provided by lawyers in local offices supported by federal funding channeled through the Legal Services Corp. and lawyers working on a pro bono basis. The ABA’s initial proposal calls for federal funding to help support some 1,000 salaried lawyers providing services to clients meeting certain economic need criteria.
According to the ABA, legal assistance can be crucial to help families facing foreclosure to keep their homes. Statistics indicate that a homeowner represented by a lawyer is 50 percent more likely to keep his or her property rather than lose it to foreclosure. The ABA will continue to push for Legal Corps with the administration and on Capitol Hill.